Saturday, June 22, 2013

Sermon for June 23, 2013; Isaiah 65:1-10

Rev. George Miller
Isaiah 65:1-10
“I AM Ready”
June 23, 2013

(This is a character sermon)

Raising children is never easy, especially when you have two sons who could not be any more different.

If you have children then you know what I mean. You give them life, you give them breath. You do your best by them.

When they are little, you bathe them, feed them, and dress them. You try to set them on the right path, establishing rules, not to dominate, but to protect.

A good parent doesn’t put qualifications on them receiving your love. You don’t pit one against the other, deeming one boy a winner and the other a loser. Each child has already won, so they are loved.

Instead you appreciate their differences, celebrate their gifts, and acknowledge what makes them each unique.

With that love comes their freedom to work, to play, to be a part of, and to become the best version of themselves they can be.

Now my older son, he’s the kind that is real serious; almost too serious as times. He takes everything to heart, always gives his best and if there’s something needed done he does it. Don’t have to ask him twice.

He is dependable, although I wish he would break free a bit more, you know- take the afternoon off to go fish at the creak or take a nap under the shade of a tree.

Sometimes I get the feeling that he thinks he has to work to earn my love. He doesn’t. Hopefully one day soon he’ll figure that out, so the work he does can become more pleasing and a joy.

Then there’s the younger son. You know how they can be: takes things a bit more in stride.

Understands that there is always work that needs to get done, so he’s more likely to stop and admire the sunset or take a second slice of Aunt Bette’s coconut cream pie.

He’s more of a dreamer then a worker, but he’s good with people and knows his way around a sick or ailing animal.

He is a free spirit and there have been times, after a rainstorm, that I catch him looking out at the rainbow as if he’s thinking there’s something better out there.

At times I’d wish he was more content at home; that he understood that there are people here who love him and can supply him with everything he needs.

On the ranch is a beautiful garden with every kind of fruit to eat; green pastures for resting; refreshing still waters; and banquets with cups running over. Lots of space to work and to dream.

One day the youngest came to me, as I long knew he would. He said he wanted to see the world and experience what’s out there.

He asked for his inheritance; an insult for most men. But I understood. I knew I had two choices: let him go and experience the world his way- the joys, the heartbreak, the victories, and the struggle.

Or tell him no and force him into obedient servitude forever, in which he’d have everything he could want but no freedom.

True growth and true love don’t come by forcing someone’s hand.

So I gave him what he asked and trusted that my love and everything I taught him would be enough to keep him safe and give him a fulfilling life.

He left…and he never came back.

My oldest son continued to work with me; we’d tend to the field, care for the cows, and prune the trees. He gave me such great joy.

…but everyday I’d wander out to the edge of the property, lean on the fence and look out. I’d wonder how my youngest son was doing, if he found a way to balance his ability to dream with his ability to work or if his freedom had brought him into a waterless pit, a dungeon of dissolution.

Every day I would lean on the fence and call out “Here I am, here I am” in hopes that he would hear my voice. Not once did I get a reply.

Time went on. Seasons changed. The seeds we planted grew into plants, the plants died to become seeds again.

Cattle gave birth, their young ones were weaned, and their old ones were slaughtered.

My eldest and I worked side by side, bringing me great joy.

Every day I went out to the edge of the property, leaned on the fence and looked out.

I was ready to be sought out, but my youngest did not come to find me.

I was ready to be found, but he did not seek me.

I called out each and every day “Here I am, here I am” but never was there a reply.

Though he was far away from me, I knew what was going on. I knew he was struggling. I’m not a fool. I know what’s out there.

I knew he was walking in a way that was not good for him. I knew that he was playing by his own rules. I knew the kind of gardens he’s be in. The things people burned. The foods he’d be eating, beverages he’d be trying.

The things that may give a man momentary pleasure but could destroy him if not careful.

If not careful, he’d find himself in dark, lonely place where the wild things are and death is always near by.

By now he would have squandered everything away, perhaps starving on the streets, begging for a hand-out.

No matter how much time passed, each and every day I went out to the edge of the property, leaned on the fence and looked out.

I was ready to be sought, but my youngest had yet to come and find me.

I was ready to be found, but he did not seek me.

I called out each and every day “Here I am, here I am” but never was there a reply.

My boy was dead…

…then one day, one day while I was saying the words “Here I am” to a son who could no longer hear me, I saw a figure in the distance.

He was much older, much more ragged, beat up. The years and life experiences had taken away the youthfulness that flowed from his spirit.

“Here I am, here I am!” I called, filled with compassion. My son, my boy who was dead had come back to life; he who was lost was now found.

Though he was still far off, I ran too him, not caring what the neighbors would say. I ran and put my arms around him.

I bathed him with kisses and with the tears that fell from my eyes.

He collapsed into my arms, confessing his transgressions, saying he had sinned and was no longer worthy of my love.

Instead of saying what he expected me to, I ordered the fattest calf to be killed. I had my son dressed in the best robe there was, and placed a ring on his finger.

Looking down, I saw he did not have shoes, instead two dirty, worn-out feet that bled and looked as though they had walked through fir and thorns.

Immediately I gave him a pair of sandals and continued to baptize him with my kisses and my tears.

“Father, I have sinned, I have sinned,” he was saying, to which I replied was “Here I am, here I am.”

After a while we walked back into our home, past the pastures and flocks, past the valley where the herds lie down to find rest.

Just as I had done when he was an infant, I filled the tub up with water, and I bathed him, washing away all that he had gone through, all that he had done, all the things that hurt him and separated him from me.

My child has returned. He does not owe me any explanations. He does not have to punish himself for the past.

He is justified.

All he has to do is to embrace his present and believe in his future.

What’s done is done.

Now each and every day he has the opportunity to heal and grow, to work and to play, to be the best brother he can and to continue becoming the person he was always created to be.

I am no longer the father who I calling out “Here I am, here I am” to a child who is gone.

Instead, I now get to say to both my boys “I AM here. I AM here.”

Amen and amen.

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